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Why Celebrate in 2003?

Early History

Gilbert Dennis Kingsbury

The University of Florida traces its roots back to 1853, the year when the East Florida Seminary became a state school of higher learning. In January of 1851, the Florida Legislature passed a bill authorizing establishment of two seminaries, one in north Florida (later to become Florida State University) and the other in west Florida, with the purpose of instructing "persons both male and female (in) the art of teaching" and all those other "arts which ennoble man and make him truly independent."

East Florida Seminary Seal

In January 1866, the East Florida Seminary moved to Gainesville as the result of legislative action. Gainesville was the trade center of a rich agricultural area and was on the route of the railroad running from Fernandina to Cedar Key. The Seminary operated as a military school for its male students. They wore uniforms, slept in barracks, ate in the mess hall, marched in formation to and from class and were awakened each morning by a bugle call.

Classroom, 1893

Needless to say, student activities and social expectations were very strict in the beginning. Students were forbidden to use malt liquors of any kind or to visit any place where they were sold. Students were also banned from playing billiards, reading books or papers unless approved by proper authority, using vulgar language, using tobacco in any form, hazing, gambling or using any form of cards or dice. Violation of these restrictions could result in expulsion.

Cadet Band

The University of Florida did not receive its current name until 1905 when the Legislature voted for a change. While the change of name did not affect the educational status of the institution, it was regarded as a step toward creating a state university.

The University of Florida's school colors are descendants from two of the schools that were brought together to form the University. Gator orange comes form the orange and black of the East Florida Seminary; Gator blue from the blue and white of Florida Agricultural College.

"The welfare of the state rests on the character of its citizen." This is the motto of the University of Florida. Providing for the welfare of the state's citizens through education has been the University of Florida's primary objective. From its humble beginnings in 1853 to the impressive institution it is today, the University's faculty, staff and administrators have given of their hearts and minds to build a university that would not only serve the state, but also the nation and the world.

Writing to President Andrew Sledd when the University was being dedicated in 1906, Gainesville Mayor Thomas predicted: "Your stay with us will be both long and pleasant," and he wished Sledd success "in building up here a great University." If a "great University" was only a dream in 1906, all would agree that the dream has been realized today. The university and its students have come a long way and evolved with the changing environment around them. Today, the University of Florida is a world-renowned institution of higher education.